Appetites: As team elevates play, Wolves head chef elevates arena menu

A person smiles wearing a chef uniform
David Fhima is the executive chef for the Minnesota Timberwolves
Courtesy photo

Basketball fans headed to the Target Center have seen the quality of play from the Timberwolves improve over the past couple of years. It just so happens that the fan dining experience also has made an Anthony Edwards-esque leap.

That is due in a large part to a full-court press led by team executive chef David Fhima. In addition to usual arena fare of hot dogs, popcorn and beer, fans headed to the playoffs will find surf-and-turf nachos, barbeque ribs and other dishes from top Minnesota chefs.

“This is an experience that we’ve been working on for the last few years,” Fhima said. “People expected to have an expensive hot dog that was not very good to be honest, and a beer that was overpriced. We didn’t want that to happen. And now that we are in the playoffs, we want to just keep raising the bar.”

As the team gears up for a heavyweight matchup against Denver in the second round of the playoffs, Fhima said he is cooking up a game plan of his own.

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“Each round has its own menu,” he said. “A lot of great restaurants do the Synergy Series and bring chefs from all over. We’re doing that in the arena, which is really cool.”

Fhima believes these changes are also a slam dunk for all ticket holders. Upper level, courtside and the suites.

“We cater to everybody,” he said. “The emphasis is on the fan. And we’ve created many, many fan-inspired menu items.”

His team coordinates pop-up kitchens around Target Center so fans can get a taste of all the cuisines Minnesota has to offer. The goal: to showcase the “cultural diversity of our food stories.”

“I’m a prideful old man with a lot of grey hair. So I get to say the truth all the time and not worry about the consequences,” Fhima said. “And I am honored and humbled to be representing in the arena so many incredible chefs in our community.”

The French native said he was initially repulsed by the thought of cooking stadium food. But now the chef behind Maison Margaux, Mother Dough Bakery and Fhima’s Minneapolis considers his arena gig as one of the best moves of his career.

“It has humbled me,” Fhima says. “It has shown me that the art does not live in complex dishes. It lives in simple dishes done well.”

For Wolves fans watching the playoffs at home, Fhima offers tips for elevating the experience.

“Buy a really good quality hotdog, buy a good hamburger bun, buy a good hamburger. Make some good popcorn.” Fhima said. “And don't use good dishes, use little paper products. Use, like, a cone to put the popcorn in. Take a little paper plate to put the hotdog in and sort of like transport yourself to the arena.”

Not only will that make watching the game more fun, Fhima said. It just might give the team a boost.

“You’re probably going to think I’m a little crazy and and that’s OK. But I think that if you do that, I think that energy will travel to the arena and I really do believe the players will feel it,” Fhima said. “And God knows we’re going to need all of it in the second round.”